Asian-born surgeon becomes German health minister

25th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Philipp Rösler, who was born 36 years ago in Vietnam and adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple, becomes health minister in the government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlin -- A surgeon of Vietnamese birth was appointed to the German government Saturday, the first person of non-European origin to serve as a minister in Berlin.

Philipp Rösler, who was born 36 years ago in Vietnam and adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple, becomes health minister in the government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A rising star in the liberal Free Democrat party (FDP), Rösler was until now the German state of Lower Saxony's minister for the economy and deputy premier.

A heart and chest surgeon by training, Roesler, will have his work cut out as he seeks to get the German health system back on a sound financial footing.

He was the FDP's point man over the past three weeks in negotiating a government programme for health reform with Merkel's Christian-Democrats.

The reform is expected to lead to higher health insurance premiums as the government struggles to keep the system viable.

Adopted from a Vietnamese orphanage, he was brought up only by his adoptive father, a career military officer, as the couple split up when Roesler was aged four.

After studying medicine, Roesler, who spent much of his youth in and around barracks, became a medical officer in the German army.

He joined the FDP in 1992 and was elected to the Lower Saxony regional parliament in 2003. He was only this year appointed regional minister for the economy.

Roesler is married to a doctor and the father of one-year-old twin girls called Grietje and Gesche.

Asked recently by Stern magazine if he had been bullied in his youth because of his origin, Roesler suggested tongue-in-cheek that he had never had any trouble "because people always think that all Asians are karate experts."

Here follows a list of the main players in Merkel's cabinet:

CHANCELLOR: Angela Merkel (CDU), 55, became in 2005 Germany's first chancellor from the former communist East Germany, its first female leader and its youngest. A physicist by training and the daughter of a pastor, she rose to power first as a protégé of former chancellor Helmut Kohl. Forbes magazine's most powerful woman in the world four years running.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Guido Westerwelle, 47, takes the foreign ministry as is traditional for leaders of the FDP in coalitions with the CDU/CSU. A lawyer by training, he has little experience in foreign affairs but says he will stand by "basic tenets" of German postwar policy. He will be Europe's first openly gay foreign minister, having publicly "come out" at Merkel's 50th birthday bash.

FINANCE MINISTER: Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU), 67, moves from interior minister to finance minister, charged with balancing the books amid sharply rising debts. Wheelchair-bound since a 1990 attack on his life, the veteran conservative was a close ally of former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

DEFENCE MINISTER: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, 37, from the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's CDU. The baron with the slicked-back hair raised eyebrows when he was named economy minister in February, but he has shot past Merkel to become Germany's most popular politician. His main task will be overseeing Germany's unpopular mission in Afghanistan.

ECONOMY MINISTER: Rainer Brüderle (FDP), 64, deputy chairman of the pro-business Free Democrats since 1998. The wine buff, silver-haired veteran was touted as a possible economy minister under Kohl in the late 1990s but missed out before the FDP was consigned to 11 years in opposition in 1998.

INTERIOR MINISTER: Thomas de Maizière (CDU), 54, Merkel's trusted lieutenant since 2005 as her chief of staff, has been rewarded for his loyalty with the post of interior minister. His main tasks will be tackling the threat of Islamic extremism and fostering better integration of ethnic minorities.

FAMILY MINISTER: Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), 51, a popular mother of seven, will continue as family minister. In the previous government she introduced a raft of measures aimed at lifting Germany's traditionally low birth rate including increased benefits for stay-at-home parents and more kindergartens.

LABOUR MINISTER: Franz Josef Jung (CDU), 50, switches from defence to labour at a time of growing unemployment brought on by the economic crisis.

HEALTH MINISTER: Philipp Rösler (FDP), 36, a surgeon of Vietnamese birth, is the youngest member in the cabinet. He was adopted as a nine-month-old baby by a German couple and brought up in Germany. A rising star in the FDP he is currently minister for the economy and deputy premier in the state of Lower Saxony around Hanover.


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